While ambulances are supposed to breeze through traffic signals and one-way lanes, victims being transported by the free ambulance service in Bengaluru are at the mercy of the gods, thanks to the city’s traffic congestion.



Many city hospitals claim patients who are brought during emergencies die as the golden hour — the 60 minutes after traumatic injury when emergency treatment is most successful — is lost in traffic. In a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), doctors found that nearly 1/3 of patients die on the way to hospital and the same amount die after hospitalisation in a year’s time; all these patients are brought as emergency cases.



Traffic experts have found that although the free ambulance services are operational, it is simply not possible for ambulances to transport all the emergency cases to hospital in the golden hour. "Traffic is huge; even if a free way is given to an ambulance, it is not helping in many cases. In case of road traffic accidents, the sooner the patient gets admitted, his/her chance of survival is better; but in many cases, it is simply not possible in city limits," said Dr Girish, a neurosurgeon at NIMHANS.



Traffic expert M.N. Shreehari says the city’s roads are not good and are very narrow in many areas. “I have seen ambulances getting stuck many a times. There should be dedicated ambulance corridors like in other countries. The Traffic Police should station additional men at locations where there is lot of traffic movement. If these bottlenecks are cleared, ambulances can reach hospitals faster," explained Shreehari.



Shreehari also opined that commuters need to change their attitude and ensure ambulances are given prime importance.



Agreeing with Shreehari, Ravindra, a driver with the 108 Ambulance service, said people do not give way despite the use of sirens and mike announcements. "The two-wheelers and cabs take advantage and they jump signals along with us. This adds to the traffic commotion. We need a better solution and it can happen only through strong law enforcement and greater awareness,” he added.